Sheriff departments and Indiana Department of Child Services crack down on meth use, child neglect | Families
Sheriff departments in Vanderburgh and Warrick counties, along with the Indiana Department of Child Services, are encouraging community members to report incidents of suspected methamphetamine production and use. The two counties are among those Indiana areas battling a high number of meth users and labs, in addition to a rise in illegal prescription drug use.
The Indiana State Police reported 1,726 meth labs were seized statewide in 2012. There were 388 children found in meth lab environments. In Vanderburgh County, according to the Sheriff’s Department, 114 meth labs were seized and 37 children were present. The Warrick County Sheriff’s Department reported 23 labs were found in Warrick County.
“Meth is a drug that is unlike any other drug we’ve had to do battle with. It can be produced at home relatively easily and it’s incredibly addictive,” said Vanderburgh County Sheriff Eric Williams, who stresses that meth use isn't confined to any age group. “Meth is a cancer in our community just like it is in so many other communities. We’ve got to work together to get rid of this cancer.”
Lt. Mike Wilder, Warrick County Sheriff’s Department, says his officers deal with meth issues every day. “Meth doesn’t just create a problem for the people abusing it, it creates problems for the abuser’s family, the people they live around and virtually anyone associated with him or her.” The drug controls the abuser so much they will often lose their home, personal possessions and even children to simply get high one more time.
Wilder notes that meth manufacturers are indiscriminate about where they produce their meth. “When officers arrived at the reported address of a meth lab last summer, they were stunned to realize the residence was located above a childcare center where innocent children could have been exposed to hazardous chemicals and possibly even a fire or explosion.”
DCS’ Regional Manager Gini Combs has seen first-hand the devastating effects meth has on families. “When parents are high on meth, their children don’t get fed or supervised,” said Combs. “Sadly, sometimes many children are physically or sexually abused by a parent high on meth or a friend of the parent who is high on the drug.”
Sheriff Williams and Lt. Wilder both say their departments rely heavily on the support and information local citizens provide about the use and production of meth. "The best way citizens can help our community is to get involved. If you suspect illegal drug activity in your neighborhood, call and report your suspicions," said Wilder.
Williams emphasized the crucial importance of telling someone about any suspicions. “If folks don’t let us know about drug-related activities, this meth problem will continue to escalate.”
Citizens with tips about meth use or meth labs in Vanderburgh County should call 812.305.5762. In addition, tips can be sent as an anonymous text message to 847411 with VCSO followed by the tip. Or an anonymous tip can be left online at http://goo.gl/GQ9Bs. In Warrick County, call 812.897.6180. For immediate action with a meth issue, call 9-1-1.
DCS must also rely on community members to help protect children. In Indiana, all citizens are required to report incidents of child abuse and neglect. Combs said DCS looks to neighbors, friends, family members and other community members as first responders in helping protect children. Since many times children are victims of neglect when their parents use meth, she offered these tips about observations that could indicate a child is living in a meth home:
Possible signs meth or other illicit drugs may be present in a child’s home:
- Truancy – The child misses an excessive amount of school.
- Poor hygiene – Disheveled hair, dirty clothes, body odor.
- Lack of supervision – Very young children exposed to dangerous objects or situations.
- Poor health care – Lack of needed medical/dental care, immunizations, eye glasses.
- Caregiver duties – Child is caregiver to younger siblings or parents that can’t care for themselves.
Anyone suspecting abuse or neglect should contact the child abuse and neglect hotline at 800.800.5556.